If you have multiple myeloma, you’ll need a team of health care professionals from a number of specialties. They’ll work together to make sure you get personalized care and support and that all your needs are met.
Here’s a look at which experts you may have on your team and how they could be involved in your care.
Primary Care Physician
Your primary care physician (PCP) might be a family practice doctor, a general practitioner, an internal medicine physician, or a gynecologist. You probably saw your PCP when you first had symptoms of multiple myeloma. They likely sent you to see a hematologist or medical oncologist for a diagnosis. While you’re having treatment for multiple myeloma, your PCP works with the other specialists involved in your care.
Hematologist or Medical Oncologist
Hematologists and medical oncologists are experts in diagnosing and treating multiple myeloma, so you may see either one. Hematologists specialize in treating blood diseases, and medical oncologists specialize in treating cancer.
This is the physician who will diagnose your disease and recommend the best treatments for you. They will answer your questions and see you regularly to check on how your treatment is working. They can also help you find ways to manage any treatment side effects.
Before you start any multiple myeloma treatment, it’s a good idea to see your dentist to make sure your mouth is in good shape. Why? Let’s say you’ve started treatment, and you end up having a tooth taken out. This can delay your treatment.
Bisphosphonates are often used to treat the bone disease common in multiple myeloma. But they also put you at a higher risk of a condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw. This condition is rare, but it’s permanent and painful, and it can cause infection in your jawbone.
Dental surgery can trigger osteonecrosis of the jaw. This means you might have to stop your bisphosphonate treatment for weeks or months.
Another reason to go to the dentist: When your dental health is good before you start treatment, you have a lower risk of dental or oral side effects from treatment, such as sores in your mouth, tooth decay, dry mouth, and infection.
It’s important to see your dentist regularly during treatment, too. Not only does this keep you in good oral health, if you do have side effects, your dentist can help you manage them.
If you need radiation therapy, this physician is the one who prescribes and supervises it. They’ll explain the risks and benefits, answer your questions, and see you regularly while you’re getting radiation treatment.
Nurse and Nurse Practitioner
You’ll interact with a variety of nurses everywhere you go. For example, you may have an oncology nurse who works with your oncologists and is trained to give you treatments.
Registered nurses (RNs) assist doctors in providing care. They’re a great resource when you have questions or need support.
You may also see a nurse practitioner -- a nurse with advanced training -- instead of your physician.
Sometimes, multiple myeloma affects your bones, causing them to become weak. This raises your risk of broken or fractured bones and bone pain. An orthopedic surgeon can help with these issues. This may involve surgery.
Mental Health Care Provider
Whether it’s a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed counselor, a mental health care provider can be crucial when it comes to your emotional well-being. They can help you process your diagnosis, sort through your feelings about your health, and handle issues as they come up.
If you need support services and resources, a social worker is the person to see. They can find pretty much anything you need help with, whether it’s financial assistance, parenting problems, or insurance coverage. They’re able to offer counseling for you and your family, too.
Chances are, you’ll have questions about your prescription medications. Your local pharmacist is a great resource for this. They can advise you on anything medication related, whether it’s what side effects to watch for, how and when to take your medication, or possible drug interactions.
Depending on your situation, your doctor may advise you to see a physical therapist (PT). PTs can recommend and oversee safe exercises that are personalized for your needs. This is often a combination of strength training and low-impact aerobics. These exercises may help with symptoms of multiple myeloma or of your treatment. They may especially help with fatigue and sleep problems. An exercise program can also boost your quality of life.
When you’re in treatment for cancer, you may have some dietary issues. These can include loss of appetite, weight gain or loss, nausea, vomiting, or dry mouth. A certified dietitian or nutritionist can answer your questions about these common problems. They can also help you come up with a nutrition plan to help you keep up your strength and manage any dietary issues.
Depending on your situation, you may need or want additional specialists to be involved in your care. For instance, a chaplain, clergy member, or spiritual adviser can give you spiritual and emotional support.
If you end up needing a bone marrow transplant, you’ll have a transplant specialist team. This may include experts like a transplant oncologist, a transplant nurse, a coordinator, and other support services.
If you have a long-term (or chronic) condition such as diabetes, epilepsy, or kidney or heart disease, a specialist can answer questions about how multiple myeloma treatment might affect it. These include nephrologists (kidneys), cardiologists (heart), urologists (urinary tract), neurologists (brain), and pulmonologists (respiratory system).